Every winter, respiratory viruses put significant strain on our health care system. This was the case even before COVID-19. Data from Ontario’s Acute Care Enhance Surveillance system in emergency departments shows unusually large struggles with respiratory illness. Much of this is because of an increase in hospitalizations among young children.
Protect yourself, those around you and our health care system by using “layers of protection.” For the best protection, Public Health strongly recommends all individuals stay up-to-date on their vaccines, including vaccines against COVID-19 and the flu, and wear a mask.
With both COVID-19 and the flu circulating in Niagara, everyone is encouraged to get up-to-date with all vaccines, find out when you need to get your next COVID-19 vaccine, and get the flu shot once available.
COVID-19 vaccines may be given at the same time as, or any time before or after, other vaccines, for all age groups. There is no time interval to wait.
If you've felt confused about COVID-19 vaccination for you or your child, you aren't alone. Talk to a health care provider who will listen to your concerns and answer your questions. For more information, contact the SickKids COVID-19 Vaccine Consult Service.
Masks help protect you and those around you from COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses.
Niagara Region Public Health strongly recommends everyone who can continue to wear a mask in indoor settings and crowded outdoor settings.
Learn more about masks.
Whether you have COVID-19 or not, stay home if you're feeling sick to help prevent whatever infection you may have from spreading to others.
See self-isolation to learn more.
Ensure your ventilation system is in good working order. If you don't have a ventilation system, open windows to increase fresh air flow (if weather permits and can be tolerated).
Learn about how ventilation helps protect against the spread of COVID-19.
If you use a forced air system to heat or cool your home:
Avoid using portable fans, ceiling fans and single unit air conditioners. If you must use them, aim the air stream to avoid blowing directly at or between people in the room. Consider using fans that vent to the outside, such as a box fan in a window, a bathroom exhaust fan and a kitchen exhaust fan. Make sure you open a window when using these fans if possible.
Try to maintain an optimal humidity level, between 30 and 50 per cent in your home. A humidifier or dehumidifier can help you achieve this.
For other ventilation options, speak with a HVAC professional or see Health Canada's guidance document 'At home: Using ventilation and filtration to reduce the risk of aerosol transmission of COVID-19'.
Clean your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or hand sanitize and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or into your sleeve. Throw used tissues into a covered, compostable bag lined organics bin or a plastic lined garbage can. Clean your hands after.
Avoid sharing personal items, especially those that come into contact with saliva, such as toothbrushes and eating utensils.
Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces regularly using a disinfectant and following manufacturer’s instructions.
Different respiratory viruses are spreading in our community right now, including COVID-19, the flu and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus). While anyone can get really sick from these viruses, some people are more at risk of a severe outcome, such as hospitalization or even death, from getting infected. This can be due to factors such as age or having an underlying medical condition. Social factors, like income status, can also put people more at risk.
By using layers of protection, we not only help protect ourselves but also the most vulnerable people in our community, such as children, the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions. If you are someone who may be at higher risk of a severe outcome from an infection, it is all the more important to use layers of protection to help stay healthy.
Individuals who are more at risk of a severe outcome from a COVID-19 infection include
Visit the Public Health Agency of Canada's website to learn about more ways you can protect yourself if you're at risk of more severe disease or outcomes from COVID-19.
Check your COVID-19 visit risk.
RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Some people, however, are more at risk of getting really sick. This includes
Learn about RSV.
There is still a risk due to COVID-19 posed by travelling to other parts of Canada or internationally, especially to areas where there is higher spread. Consider your risk when thinking about planning a trip.
If you do decide to travel, protect yourself by getting vaccinated and staying up to date. As well, when travelling, be mindful that some activities are higher risk, such as being in crowds or busy indoor spaces. Outdoor activities and protections like wearing masks are encouraged.
If you're planning a vacation, consider travelling within the province. The Ontario government is encouraging residents to support our local tourism industry and businesses as they recover from the impacts of the pandemic. You can use Ontario's Staycation Tax Credit for 20 per cent of your eligible 2022 accommodation expenses.
For people travelling outside of Canada
The Public Health Agency of Canada has provided travel advice for Canadians considering travelling abroad during the pandemic.
Countries may have proof of vaccination requirements that you must meet to be allowed entry. Learn about the Canadian COVID-19 proof of vaccination as a way for you to show proof of your COVID-19 vaccination history when travelling internationally. This form of proof does not guarantee you entry to another country. Before you travel, you must check the rules of your destination country and the countries you transit through.
It's not certain how long COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Preliminary information on COVID-19 suggests that the virus may live on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days depending on:
High touch surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected regularly. Clean your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or hand sanitize. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
Products shipped within or from outside of Canada could also be contaminated. However, because packages usually take days or weeks to be delivered, and are shipped at room temperature, the risk of spread is low. There is no known risk of coronaviruses entering Canada on parcels or packages.
Learn about animals and COVID-19.
For more information on what you need to know when visiting a doctor's office, visit the College of Physicians and Surgeons Ontario COVID-19 frequently asked questions for patients.
Niagara Region Public Health doesn't recommend that employers require testing or doctor's notes for return to work. Some individuals will continue to test positive for COVID-19 for many months, long after they're no longer contagious.
For more information, see:
Long COVID (sometimes also referred to as Post Acute COVID-19 Syndrome) occurs in at least 10 per cent of people, and in as high as 50 to 60 per cent of unvaccinated people by some estimates. In long COVID, some people continue to suffer symptoms even after they have recovered from a COVID-19 infection. For some people these symptoms are very mild, but for others they can impact someone's daily routine and may even be disabling.
Some symptoms are:
These symptoms are examples. They are not the same in every person and individuals may experience symptoms not included in this list. In addition to these symptoms, people's risk of developing diseases longer-term such as heart disease or diabetes are significantly increased after past COVID-19 infection.
If you are experiencing lingering symptoms or have noticed any changes in your overall health since contracting COVID-19, it is important to reach out to your health care provider or Health Connect Ontario. The Province of Ontario is consistently updating primary care physician with emerging evidence in this area so they can properly treat and refer patients with long COVID symptoms.
The best thing one can do to prevent long COVID is to get vaccinated. Research shows that vaccination prevents long COVID both by reducing the chance of being infected with COVID-19 and by reducing the risk of long COVID even if one is infected. Newer antiviral treatments may also work to treat long COVID symptoms in some.
Long COVID resources: